President Obama has made the wrong decision to send 30,000 more troops to Afghanistan–at a cost of $1 million per soldier, or $30 billion a year. What we need is not more war but attention to problems like poverty which so often play a role in breeding insecurity and terrorism.
In Afghanistan, as we dispatch these first soldiers, it’s important that we pay attention to the dire problem of extreme poverty in that tormented country.
The statistics are stunning: Afghanistan is the fifth least developed country in the world according to a UN report; the fifth lowest GDP per capita in the world at $426, according to the World Bank; life expectancy is 43 years compared to 59 for people in low-income countries worldwide; only 13 percent of Afghans have access to safe drinking water and 12 percent to adequate sanitation; 15,000 Afghan women die annually from pregnancy-related causes and the maternal mortality rate is second highest in the world; thirty Afghans die of tuberculosis every day; fewer than one in four Afghans are literate.
The counterinsurgency strategy itself calls for 80 percent of resources to be used for non-military purposes like economic development, and just 20 percent for the military. Yet both Presidents Bush and Obama have flipped this ratio, and with the new Obama surge, itseems the skewed allotment of resources will only get worse. (The Obama surge also contradicts counterinsurgency principles which demand twenty soldiers for every 1000 inhabitants, or 270,000-plus forces.)
Imagine what we might be able to accomplish to build security if we gave up on an outmoded "war" on terror and the hundreds of billions of dollars it squanders on military force, and instead funded sustainable development programs?